By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – ‘Escola de Música da Rocinha’ (Rocinha Music School) has much cause to celebrate, with new sources of funding secured and a big concert planned for their 25th anniversary in 2019. Their assistant to the director of the chamber orchestra, Canadian musician Vanessa Rodrigues, is looking to help the school build on the success of recent years that saw them featured on O Globo’s ‘Encontro’ with Fatima Bernardes in 2017, and ‘Bom Dia Rio’ in 2018.

Vanessa Rodrigues has been working with the school since 2012, after being introduced to them by the well-known tour guide of Rocinha, Zezinho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News,
Vanessa Rodrigues has been working with the school since 2012, after being introduced to them by the well-known tour guide of Rocinha, Zezinho, photo courtesy of Vanessa Rodrigues.

“The music school itself was founded by German Hans Ulrich Koch in 1994, and serves the young people of Rocinha, Vidigal and surrounding favela communities.” Rodrigues explains. “Since the beginning there have always been lessons for cavaquinho (small, four-stringed guitar), guitar, recorder, and voice.”

However, the school has grown immensely since 1994, and it plans to serve even more children from the surrounding communities in 2019, as Natalia Simonete, from the school, comments.

“To celebrate the school turning 25 in 2019, we are planning several actions throughout the year, such as improving the school infrastructure through the purchase of new instruments; creating new uniforms for students and staff; concerts by students in various parts of the city; student and guest concerts in Rocinha; and a big birthday event in June.” She says.

The big concert in June is still in the processes of planning, but Simonete promises some very exciting guest appearances. “We will have presentations of the students and teachers together with great names of Brazilian music. We are still negotiating with these artists and so we still can not confirm who they will be.”

Since starting at the school, Rodrigues has been involved in building up the school’s chamber orchestra. “I had come to Rio in 2011 to play ‘tamborim’ (small drum of Portuguese and African origin) in the parade and started rehearsing with samba group ‘Acadêmicos da Rocinha.’”

She continues, “A well-known tour guide from Rocinha, Zezinho, told me that there was a music school in the building next door to the samba school, and that I should check it out, as it had a mandate to serve the underprivileged kids in the region.”

Rodrigues adds, “I went and found that they had secured a donation of orchestral instruments but there was nobody to teach them. I have a background in string orchestra so long story short I decided to leave my life in Canada and teach violin at the music school in Rocinha.”

Rodrigues and the school have enjoyed many recent triumphs over the past few years, including an appearance on the popular chat show, ‘Encontro’ with Fatima Bernardes in 2017, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News,
Rodrigues and the school have enjoyed many recent triumphs over the past few years, including an appearance on the popular chat show, ‘Encontro’ with Fatima Bernardes in 2017, photo courtesy of Vanessa Rodrigues.

“We started building the chamber orchestra project and in 2015 secured a sponsorship from Repsol Sinopec. They continue to support us to this day.” Rodrigues concludes. The school, like many non-profit organizations in Rio de Janeiro, are constantly looking to secure sponsorship deals with both private enterprises and NGOs, something they have successfully continued into 2019.

Simonete adds, “The school already had the sponsorship of Repsol Sinopec Brasil and the German organization Hoffnungskänlge. Now in 2019, in addition to the continuity of the organizations already mentioned, we will also have two new sponsors – Eletrobras Furnas and Seadrill.”

“We have recently managed to secure support from additional companies, which will help us purchase more instruments, improve our main school location as well as our recently established location in Rio das Pedras.” She concludes.

Aside from assisting the Rocinha Music School, Rodrigues also works as a freelance pianist and jazz organist, which includes helping to organize the repertoire of the expatriate-owned jazz venue The Maze, as well as collaborating with fellow expatriate jazz musician and founder of Favela Brass, Tom Ashe, among other projects.

The school’s website can be found here.

Vanessa Rodrigues’s website can be found here.

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